PETER Mutisi, a Cyclone Idai survivor from Kopa, Chimanimani lost his wife, house and entire business empire to the disaster. For the past two years, he has been struggling to cope with the fact that all he had worked for and the person he loved the most disappeared right in front of his eyes and he couldn’t do anything about it.
By Michael Gwarisa recently in Chimanimani
“Everything happened so fast, we receive plenty of rainfall every year in these parts and on the fateful night, that is March 15, 2019, we just thought it was the usual rainfall even though we realised that the water levels in Nyahode and Rusitu were rising at a faster rate,” said Mutsusi.
As he continues talking, one cannot help but notice that Mutisi is trying so hard to hold in the pain and tears.
I was woken up by a neighbour who alerted me that the flood was already taking a toll on the community. I woke my wife and volunteered to ferry pregnant women and children in my vehicle to safety. However, when we got to the bridge, it had already been washed away and we were marooned at a police post that used to be here.”
He narrates how he and a few other community members escaped using a rope that was tied to a window frame. Unfortunately, his wife and more than 200 other residents of the Madhumeni (Agritex Officers) community were washed away and never to be seen again up to this day. Mutisi and other survivors are now picking up the pieces and have now set up a committee of survivors to coordinate aid and assistance. The committee also coordinates programs being implemented under the Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project (ZIRP) in Chimanimani.
According to an assessment that was conducted by the World Bank (WB) and the Government of Zimbabwe, the estimated loss due to the Cyclone Idai was more than $500million across nine districts, with more than half of the loss having been recorded in Chipinge and Chimanimani.
The ZIRP is an integrated response that was developed by the World Bank (WB) to provide livelihoods, health and economic solutions to Cyclone Idai survivors. Organisations under ZIRP include the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) and United Nations Office for Projects Services (UNOPS-CI).
In an interview during a health outreach visit in Chimanimani, Marjorie Mpundu, the World Bank Country Manager applauded how the ZIRP project has integrated the health, Gender Based Violence (GBV) as well as the COVID-19 response under one roof.
“The ZIRP project came into being in 2019 following the Cyclone Idai that affected these communities. One of the things that we tried to do was to help the communities restore the healthcare services that were available originally before the Cyclone Idai. Because we couldn’t work directly with the communities, we partnered with UNOPS and we partnered with WHO, the Food Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and also the local Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to make sure that we were providing these health services to the communities.
“We are really grateful to WHO and UNFPA for also bringing services closer to the communities. One of the things that we have done is the rehabilitation of basic health service structures like the clinics within these communities. I think it is important to bring these services closer to the people. I am really happy that we have integrated the health, the COVID-19 response but more importantly the Gender Based Violence (GBV) aspect. This is a very good way of just integrating the whole One Stop health and social support to the community and see them through as they respond to the calamity that they faced ,” said Mpundu.
The WB is also supporting on the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE) to the Cyclone Idai affected communities and the country at large.
The Health Response:
Following infrastructure and livelihoods disruption, a plethora of health challenges ranging from Hypertension, mental health disorders, loss to follow up among other health woes manifested. To address these challenges, WHO has been supporting the Zimbabwe Cyclone Idai Recovery project and conducting health outreach programs for more than two years and has managed to provide healthcare services to over 45 000 beneficiaries. WHO has also been supporting the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) to offer basic healthcare services to the Cyclone Affected Communities.
Dr Tsitsi Siwela, the WHO ZIRP project coordinator said the integration of health services and outreach programs had addressed some of the bottlenecks that came about as a result of the Cyclone and these include user fees, distance traveled nearest health facilities, access to essential medicines and specialists doctors among a host of other challenges.
“This project was set up to respond to the devastation that was caused by the Cyclone Idai in 2019. We have a team of medical doctors, nurses Pharmacy technicians, Laboratory Technicians and environmental health technicians. They go into the community and bring healthcare services close to the communities and the communities really appreciate the services because they are bringing health services close to them.
“We are also bringing specialists to the communities and this they appreciate. Through ZIRP, we have managed to support the COVID-19 response. We have supported the government of Zimbabwe to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic where we have managed to support the MoHCC to train healthcare workers on COVID-19. We have trained them on case management, IPC and COVID-19 testing,” said Dr Siwela.
WHO has also supported the Laboratory component where they have procured a PCR Machine and COVID-19 test kits for Manicaland province to enhance COVID-19 testing and response. They have also strengthened the surveillance pillar where environmental health technicians have been trained and capacitated to respond to outbreaks.
To mobilise communities to seek health services, WHO has also been working closely with UNICEF to conduct immunisations for children under the age five, screening for malnutrition and also through deployment of Village Health Workers (VHWs) who would move door to door checking on patients and children.
The GBV Response:
Following the Cyclone Idai disaster, increased cases of emotional, economic, physical and sexual violence among couples and towards women and children were recorded in Chimanimani district and other affected areas. To respond to the surge in GBV cases post the Cyclone period, the UNFPA worked with WHO, Musasa Project, Family AIDS Caring Trust (FACT), the Victim Friendly Unit (VFU) and other partners to address the GBV problem.
UNFPA Zimbabwe Technical Specialist, Verena Bruno said bringing GBV services to the doorpost of survivors had enhanced access to health services for survivors and assisted them in getting professional counseling and legal support.
“Recently, we have been working on coordinating the ZIRP recovery project in Chimanimani and Chipinge working with different United Nations (UN) organizations, UNOPS and support from the World Bank to ensure access to GBV services in remote and hard to reach areas. We do this through a model that is called the Mobile One Stop Centre for GBV survivors which brings multi sectoral services for GBV survivors including health, psychosocial counseling, security and legal support in the remote and hard to reach areas especially where GBV services are not available,” said Bruno.
In most parts of the country, GBV service are available at district and provincial level. However, the UNFPA model under ZIRP brings the services close to the community and increase timely access to services.
“Brining services to the communities enhances the way they report. It is important to report GBV especially sexual violence within 72 hours in order to access Post Rape services and these include Post Exposure Prophylaxes (PEP) and a number of other services that otherwise could not be accessed.
“The impact is positive as this brings the services closer to the communities and reduces the time of traveling for instance from their locations to the services. It also solves problems of transport which during the COVID-19 lockdowns became a bigger and bigger challenge. In some cases, the mobile services also provide shuttle services for the critical cases and follow-ups and referrals to higher level of care like the district, provincial and mission hospitals.”
Even though the ZIRP project is coming to an end in December 2021, it has given affected communities a starting point and strengthened health systems through delivering essential health services right to the doorstep of affected individuals and communities in Cyclone Idai affected areas. This integrated health services under ZIRP was implemented for two years in Chimanimani and Chipinge.